William Wordsworth's Coparative Study of Science and Poetry in his Preface to Lyrical Ballads

William Wordsworth, as a Romantic poet, in his Preface to lyrical Ballads, considers poetry to be superior to science. He shows that the scientist studies only the appearance of things while the poet investigates the inner reality of human soul. The realization of the unity of nature and man gives absolute pleasure to the poet. A scientist is devoid of this pleasure; he enjoys pleasure in solitude whereas poetic truth can be shared by all. The poet’s appeal, says Wordsworth, is to the intellect as well as to the heart of man, unlike the appeal of the scientist’s truth, which is to the intellect alone.

Wordsworth thinks that the time may come when science will change and alter the very material conditions of life. When that happens, the poet will give feeling and emotional coloring to the factual achievement of science and present it in a vivid form to the reader. The dry and dull skeleton of science will be given life and vividness, flesh and blood through the art of poetry.

The Victorian poet Mathew Arnold in his critical writing The Study of Poetry, echoes Wordsworth’s view that science would remain incomplete without poetry and quotes Wordsworth: poetry is “the breath and finer spirit of knowledge”. In a fact the atmosphere of sensation only matters and he takes his surroundings for his subject. Even the ‘objects of the science” are put to poetic sensation and the discoveries of the chemist, the Botanist, or Mineralogist will also be the objects of the poet’s art. Not only that the poet will aid the science to ring it before all in a decisive form in the coming days with its “divine spirit”. Thus Wordsworth elevates the position of poet over the man of science and so says, “it is as immortal as the heart of man.”